OPINION: Big agencies aren’t best at creating great radio spots

Non-agency radio creative can be consistently superior to the work the major agencies produce. Dan Maier knows that, when it comes to radio, small guys can do it best

Non-agency radio creative can be consistently superior to the work the

major agencies produce. Dan Maier knows that, when it comes to radio,

small guys can do it best

Nobody in this country writes good radio commercials. You’ll probably be

sick of hearing this by now. I certainly am.

You see, my creative department has won 18 creative awards and picked up

countless nominations in the past five years. All for radio commercials.

The trouble is, when you’re based at a radio station in West Yorkshire,

you don’t exactly burn like a comet through the collective consciousness

of the ad industry.

But let’s start at the beginning. There’s a really irritating

presumption, manifest in the trade press, that radio copywriting is the

preserve of agency creatives. Agency creatives who can’t, according to

industry observers, write good radio ads.

It’s galling that radio creativity only ever seems to merit a mention in

such a negative context.

Every couple of months, another earnest ad biz bigwig surfaces in

Campaign, bemoaning the pitiful standards of ads on the wireless and

commenting on behalf of the industry that ‘we really ought to do

something about this’.

What’s really frustrating and upsetting is that no-one acknowledges the

existence of the creatives who do write great radio - in-house

copywriters at local radio stations and production houses who understand

and respect the medium.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that within every ILR station on these

islands lurks a toiling team of unsung creative martyrs, or that agency

writers wouldn’t know a good radio ad if it scooped out their eyeballs

with a rusty trowel.

Indeed, the majority of radio work produced locally is functional at

best. But then, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys, and most employers

and - as a consequence - most local advertisers in the radio industry

have yet to see the value of investing in creativity.

Even so, the cream of non-agency radio creative - nurtured by those

media owners and independent producers who have seen the light - is

consistently superior to the kind of work major agencies deem fit for

the national brands they represent.

In which case, why aren’t national clients forming an orderly queue at

our office door?

Well, imagine you’re the marketing director of LargeCo UK and you’ve

decided to use radio for the first time. Who’s going to produce your


Will it be your agency of record for the past several years which has a

sound creative reputation for work in other media? Or will it be four

blokes in Bradford? You’re not exactly going to have to toss a coin, are


What if your agency has no track record in or great enthusiasm for radio

production while the blokes in Bradford have 15 years of radio

copywriting experience between them and have won two gold awards in the

past couple of months?

Hmm. Trouble is, you’re never likely to find out about that. Lack of

national exposure is a big problem for ambitious provincial outfits such

as ours. I believe such exposure would benefit not only the agencies but

their clients too.

While the tireless efforts of the Radio Advertising Bureau to promote

radio creativity through, for instance, the Aerial awards, may act as a

carrot to agency creatives, healthy competition from creative production

houses such as ours might just be the stick.

More beneficial still, perhaps, would be extensive co-operation. I know

that such co-operation - between independent radio specialists and a

number of open-minded agencies - already exists.

But there are still plenty of agencies and radio experts who could

benefit from each other’s expertise. And that could only benefit the

radio industry as a whole.

Dan Maier is a senior copywriter at the West Yorkshire radio station,


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